Negative Emotions

A Bender Byte Moment

By Ron Bender © 2010

Negative emotions. We all have them. We all have struggled with how to deal with emotions like worry, anger, depression, shame, ambition, lust, and jealousy—I also have problems overcoming emotional issues.

Of course, having an emotion isn’t a problem—it’s normal. But how do we respond to troubling emotions? That’s the issue.

Emotions become “negative” when they are internalized or acted on in ways that harm yourself or others. Many of the ministry leaders and other Christ followers that we talk to struggle with negative emotions.

Learn from the Psalmist

“Do not worry… Do not worry… Do not worry…” the Psalmist repeats his counsel three times in Psalm 37 (verses 1, 7, 8). Just like Jesus did in Matthew 6 (verses 25, 31, 34).

“Do not worry.” This is not empty reassurance. The Psalmist understands our emotional problems and he shows us the way to work through them in prayer so that not only can we have peace with God, but also we can have the peace of God.

The way of the Psalmist—God’s wisdom—runs counter to the way of the world. Our culture tells us that the way to be free of negative emotions is to “get them out” by venting. That’s not true. Expressing our emotions in a loving way (toward others and self) does help us to be more aware of them which is part of the answer because it can facilitate receiving empathy so we know that we’re not alone and we have help to carry our burdens. But there is more.

The Psalmist does more than just vent his emotions to God — he is growing in his understanding of himself and his life, taking responsibility to deal with his situation, and reaching out in faith for the comfort and guidance from God that he needs.

He demonstrates that there are reasons why we struggle with emotions like anger and these reasons need to be understood and resolved if we’re going to make good decisions and become a better person.

Emotions and the Kingdom of God

One of the reasons why we struggle with negative emotions is when in a given situation we are not fully submitted to God and his kingdom.

I want my way. I want things to work out fairly. I want to be happy. I want to feel in control. I want people to be happy with me. I want, I want, I want!

It’s natural to have wants, but if our desires aren’t submitted to God and if we don’t find the Lord himself to be our portion then those desires will wreck havoc in our lives.

Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all that you need will be provided for you in due time” (Matthew 6:33, paraphrase). When you or I are overtaken by an emotion or reacting to it in an unloving way we can be sure that in that situation (and probably in the underlying psychological dynamics) we have not yet learned to be fully submitted to the Lord.

Pray Psalm 37

David’s prayer in Psalm 37 helps us learn to submit to God — to trust our Good Shepherd, to focus on our responsibility to do what is good and right (no matter how it feels), to wait for God’s provision and guidance, and, most of all, to find delight in what is most precious — knowing the Lord!

Do not worry…

Trust in the Lord and do good;

Dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;

Trust in him and he will do this: he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

Do not worry… Do not worry (Psalm 37:1-8).

Which Emotion do you Need to Pray About?

Try praying this passage by substituting for the word “worry” whatever negative emotions you struggle with. One at a time focus on your emotional struggles to submit to God. Pray, “Do not _______ …”

Perhaps you need to pray, “Do not fear / hurry / envy / be angry / be ambitious / be competitive / lust / be greedy / be ashamed / criticize yourself / feel inadequate / feel insecure.”

Pray that God would help you learn to become the kind of person David is describing: someone who finds such delight in knowing the Lord and doing his will that he or she can be at peace when circumstances are not good.

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Thank you!


Ronald Bender- President/CEO Bender Consulting.~



Faith In God